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In-Between – Liminal Spaces in Canadian Literature and Cultures

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Edited By Stefan L. Brandt

In the past few years, the concept of «liminality» has become a kind of pet theme within the discipline of Cultural Studies, lending itself to phenomena of transgression and systemic demarcation. This anthology employs theories of liminality to discuss Canada’s geographic and symbolic boundaries, taking its point of departure from the observation that «Canada» itself, as a cultural, political, and geographic entity, encapsulates elements of the «liminal.» The essays comprised in this volume deal with fragmented and contradictory practices in Canada, real and imagined borders, as well as contact zones, thresholds, and transitions in Anglo-Canadian and French-Canadian texts, discussing topics such as the U.S./Canadian border, migration, French-English relations, and encounters between First Nations and settlers.

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Narrative Dynamics of Liminality in Naomi Fontaine’s Kuessipan (2011) (Jeanette den Toonder)

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Jeanette den Toonder

Narrative Dynamics of Liminality in Naomi Fontaine’s Kuessipan (2011)

Abstract: This essay deals with spatial and temporal representations of in-betweenness in Naomi Fontaine’s Kuessipan and the transformative power of the literary text as liminal zone. This condition of in-betweenness and the notion of the threshold are essential for the analysis of two complex and interrelated spaces in the book, the reserve and the land of the ancestors, as well as for the literary form adopted by Fontaine, connecting oral and literary traditions. The introduction, in which a brief overview of the development of First Nations literature in French is presented, is followed by some reflections on the relevance of the notion of liminality for the analysis of Fontaine’s novel. In the first part of this analysis, the tropes of space and time are examined within the framework of liminality and it is demonstrated that these are strongly connected and together form a complex network of memories and tradition, desires and hopes. The second part of the analysis examines the effects of transgression and transmission of the novel’s narrative form. It is argued that Kuessipan is an example of a threshold genre, combining written and oral traditions, thus creating the possibility for transformation and a future in which tradition and modernity are intertwined.

Introduction

The development of written First Nations literature in French is a recent cultural phenomenon1 that is strongly shaped by oral tradition, as...

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